Tallahassee, FL -- January 25, 2012 --
If you're in a hurry at the Capitol, you might notice him and just keep moving.
He's dressed in fatigues, patiently bringing every last detail of the soldiers he has met, to life.
His name is Mike Jernigan.
Jernigan started his first sculpture 22 years ago after his father passed away. It was a way he could immortalize his dad.
Five years later, while a lobbyist in Tallahassee, he began sculpting pieces representing Florida's history, inside the Capitol.
Last year, he started working on a project to honor the troops.
"I asked myself what is it that me as a portrait sculptor in Tallahassee can do to honor the military," said Jernigan.
Mike Jernigan became embedded with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for 60 days to take pictures and facial measurements of troops.
Now you can find him most days on the fourth floor of the Florida Capitol recreating those images out of clay.
He plans to transform 21 of his portraits into a 3D masterpiece.
Each takes about 120 hours to complete.
Then the busts will be cast in bronze and displayed around the country by next year.
After a two year tour at locations around the country, the creations will be donated to the men and women who've become immortalized.
Jernigan says sculpting someone who is alive is a different experience than he has had in the past.
"I've wound up learning to love all of my subjects that I do because I get to know them visually in every detail," said Jernigan. "Then also their personalities and they're all wonderful people."
Jernigan is self-taught in the art of sculpting and took months to study the human anatomy in order to truly translate the portraits.
He has completed one bust and is simultaneously working on two right now.
Jernigan says he'll have to pick up the pace in order to hit his deadline, but says that retirement has given him more time.
The "Honoring the Troops" project is funded from donations.
If you'd like to support Jernigan's work you can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org